STA is now Ten Years Old

TYPT's Bateman Talks To Play Louder

'My favourite bands have always been those who reach for things beyond their means...' - Bateman

There's something odd about the Young Playthings, something deliciously wrong, like they don't belong. For with their coastline guitar pop that screams Californian positivism and a distinctly American style of slacker-pop that escaped the UK cool radar at the time but now floods the indie circuit as a series of influences (think, the Replacements, Pavement, Superchunk) it's somewhat odd to realise that two of them live in London and one in Oxford. But recalling as they do that classic formula of melody and harmony, and existing completely outside of the context of fashion or style, Bateman (vox, guitar), Tibor (drums) and Jors Truly (bass, vox) are playing for the love of a good tune and an even better dance.

As with everything though, there are reasons behind the bizarre. Talking to TYP's primary frontman Bateman, the almost mythical passion and romance that surrounds a band completely out of step with the times wins hearts and minds with ease, as the band continues to show the Londoners that for all the tight jeans in the world, all the Neu-Rave and all the asymmetrical promoters you can gather, you're always going to fall to a cowboy shirt, some light denim and an ear for writing sublime guitar pop.

So, you guys sound a bit American, why is that then?

Bateman: "I guess it's vaguely interesting that JT and I don't sound entirely English, but in actual fact we are and it's Tibor, who has a Kent accent, who is half Hungarian. But JT and I grew up in Hong Kong and spent time studying in the US, so that's why we have unreal accents. If that's what you mean by sounding American."

Yeah I was sort of, but obviously it relates to the music too, which side of the pond would you say is your greatest influence?

Bateman: "I don't know, and that should be an easy question to answer right? When I first got into pop I loved Michael Jackson and Madonna, then I became obsessed with EMF and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, and I still love them. So that's two each on the scores, right? I guess that sums up my feelings about English and American music, though the circumstances are different of course, I have a huge romanticism for American music, and generally for the American West Coast and the music that came out of California and the South - but I think I feel this way because it's foreign to me, unknown and of course therefore more appealing. Also, because I am English, Englishness is something I have an affinity with, though I've had to discover it in fragments throughout my life as I lived in Hong Kong between 11 and University. My angst ridden years were soundtracked by the Queers, Fugazi, the Mr T Experience, the Promise Ring, so those hooks and subject matter are stuck in me, they've made up part of who I am At University in Canterbury I discovered English indie, the Smiths, Stone Roses, New Order, Oasis, Belle and Sebastian, so I'm basically a balancing act or churner of classic angst anthems I like to think."

But regardless of your lyrical content, the music is bombastic and stuffed with unabashed happiness, you can't ignore. I think that kind of explains why you've got Rosay Pipette singing on the new single, surely? Coming from such an insanely positivist band, herself, she presumably wouldn't sing with you guys if you were the Cure or Joy Division. How did this all come about?

Bateman: "I went to planet Pipette and got caught in their nets, I cast a spell on them to set me free, then thought I'd ask Rose to sing on the next single. When she agreed I went away and specifically wrote a song for her to sing - it's about being a porn star, as I'd seen this photograph in a book called 'Pornoland' by Stefano de Luigi and Martin Amis which was amazing, not that I associate Rose with porn, but I thought her voice and ability to give cool-as-fuck deliveries would work, and it did."

Being on the completely independent Smalltown America record label, how easy is it to operate, and with the single out at the end of May, what are the plans?

Bateman: "Well we're playing shows whenever we can. In August we're going down to Cornwall and Devon to do a couple of week's worth of shows, Bristol and Devizes, the West Country in general. That's my Westcoast obsession kicking in, I guess the country per se doesn't matter, and our shows have always gone down well there. But this single is really a run up to our first full length, which we're recording at the minute with Andrew Dragazis, who did the Pipettes album also, and who has a completely different background to us musically as he's Blue States - which has made it great fun. It's really interesting to work with someone who has a completely different musical background to us as a band, it should elevate the music to way beyond my conception of what the typical sound is."

So what do you think people will take out of your music, and what does it for you?

Bateman: "My favourite bands have always been those who reach for things beyond their means - whether it's technical ability, the facilities available to them, recording experience - because even if they fall short of the mark it's inspiring to hear that ambition documented. I'm not generally fond of 'gimmicks', but I do love a sense of cohesion about a band where every record, every little thing they do is intertwined and acts to create a sense that is the sum of a greater whole; maybe that's a gimmick too, but it's a great one. I aim to write songs that express my feelings of wonder, awe, anything that inspires me as all these issues are what consume me day in, day out and I respond by documenting it all myself. That's what I want from the band, the satisfaction of expressing these feelings vividly, and obviously I want the audience to pick up on some of this, share a bit of what I'm trying to express as I'd imagine they've felt it too, and we can share it."

You're totally different to every guitar band out there right now. Why do you think you're different and what do you think of today's crop of bands?

Bateman: "Well we're genuine heartthrobs where most others are spotty, malnourished children limply, incoherently and, in the grand scheme of things, futilely screaming about perceived injustices. That said, there is an infectious urgency to the Arctic Monkeys and I love the Fall Out Boy singles. But Babyshambles are truly appalling. I want to be great in the way I consider Modest Mouse to be great - rambling and indefinable but somehow always, in a roundabout way, hitting the nail drunkenly on the head."

'Yr So Fit (For Me)' is available from May 29th on Smalltown America records

- Jonathan Falcone, Play Louder